Tough juggling act for young Azkals defender Aguinaldo
LEADING up to what was perhaps the biggest match of his career, young Philippine Azkals defender Amani Aguinaldo went through a far from normal routine than that of his teammates.
While his fellow Azkals were billeted together at a hotel and had their minds and bodies focused on the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup semifinal clash with powerhouse Thailand, Aguinaldo didn’t have that luxury as he had to catch up with school on the days before the duel, being played at press time at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
One of the youngest players in the national side, the 20-year-old, Aguinaldo is on his second year at University of the Philippines, taking up Sports Science. He is probably the only player in the team who worries about school.
But he’s not making his stint with the national side as an excuse to take academics for granted.
It’s a difficult juggling act, but for someone who has seen his stock rise tremendously after a solid AFC Challenge Cup performance in the Maldives last May, Aguinaldo feels he’s mature enough to handle the tasks.
“It’s tough because I’m really lagging behind now (in school),” said Aguinaldo, whose presence has given Azkals coach Thomas Dooley a solid option in a backline that has some aging stalwarts in Juani Guirado and Rob Gier.
“I try to talk to my professors on what should be done. But this is just one of the sacrifices of representing the country and I also try my best to catch up after each trip.”
The days leading to the clash with Thailand proved to be even tougher than expected for Aguinaldo, who had to brave rush hour traffic, commuting everyday from Quezon City to Manila just to participate in training. He goes home to QC after training and prepares for class the next day.
On the eve of the clash, Aguinaldo came to practice late as he just came from UP to take his exam.
“It’s harder because of the traffic and picky taxi drivers,” said Aguinaldo.
In terms of footballing education, however, Aguinaldo is learning from some of the best as Dooley has taken him under his wing. Dooley played central defender for the United States in two World Cup tournaments.
Aguinaldo has hardly looked a greenhorn when pitted against the most feared strikers in Southeast Asia in the tournament. But the Davao-born defender knows he can still get better.
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